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Brandstater starts and stuns in preseason finale

POSTED September 4, 2009 11:32 p.m.
Everyone expected Tom Brandstater’s first NFL start on Thursday night to be exciting, but the Turlock High graduate made people’s jaws drop.
Brandstater, a rookie quarterback, turned in a well-beyond-his-years performance in the Denver Broncos’ preseason finale against an Arizona Cardinals team that not too long ago was playing for a Super Bowl ring. This wasn’t a typical preseason game, though, as the Cardinals played Kurt Warner, one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and Larry Fitzgerald, perhaps the best receiver in the NFL, for three quarters in front of more than 72,000 fans at Invesco Field in Denver.
Brandstater’s numbers were borderline shocking: The sixth-round pick out of Fresno State — one who was supposed to be restricted to the sidelines as the third-stringer — completed 16 of 30 passes for 187 yards and led the Broncos to scores on four of their first five possessions in a 19-0 win. His worst mistake? He threw an interception to Michael Adams just before halftime.
Brandstater played like he was fighting for a roster spot.
And actually, he is.
“I’m glad I got my shot, and hopefully I did some good with it,” he told reporters after the game. “I’m trying to make this team. I still haven’t even guaranteed myself a spot on the team. I’m trying to do everything I can to make it, just like everyone on this team is doing. I think this effort is definitely going to help that.”
The Broncos need to trim their roster to 53 players by today.
Brandstater’s destiny in Denver looks certain after quarterback Ingle Martin was sent home Friday.
How did Brandstater get into this situation, one that actually might have him as the opening day starter on Sept. 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals? The answer is both fortunate and unfortunate.
The Broncos top two quarterbacks — starter Kyle Orton (dislocated right index finger) and backup Chris Simms (sprained left ankle) — got hurt before the preseason finale. That left Brandstater as the most worthy to start because of his knowledge of the Denver playbook, considering he’s been with the team since training camp.
But little was expected out of Brandstater, whose pro debut was highlighted by getting sacked four times. He did better in his next appearance, setting the stage for Thursday night’s start.
And now, it seems he’s in the mix for the starting role Sept. 13.
It’s been reported that Orton and Simms could return next week and be healthy enough to resume their roles. But after Thursday night, Brandstater made the quarterback situation very intriguing; he helped the Broncos (1-3) avoid becoming the first Denver team to have a winless preseason since the organization’s inception in 1960.
And all Brandstater wanted was a shot.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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